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Opinion

The Changing Face Of Videogame Media

Our world is changing.

The way we consume information and entertainment is evolving. The internet has changed everything and there’s no going back. But it’s not a process that shows any signs of stopping – or even slowing down. The way we consume media continues to change and adapt at pace.

I’m in my early thirties and I recall a time when getting an encyclopaedia on CD-ROM was a thrill. I remember being amazed that a shelf full of dense books were now available as a single disc. It was cheaper, more up-to-date and allowed for things like little audio clips and even tiny videos to illustrate some entries. It was like something from a science fiction movie.

That notion already seems comically outdated.

Now, there’s a generation of recent and soon-to-be graduates that have never known a world without the world wide web. The days when television schedules dictated what we watched and when are over. The days when record company executives and television programmers decide what entertainment we digest are drawing to a close. Movies are being backed by grand old studios based on five minute, “fan-made” YouTube shorts.

The world of videogames media has not been unaffected. In the UK, games magazines have suffered some closures and some consolidation. Traditional magazine publishers have bought up or backed their own range of internet outlets, of course, but many of the long-standing big names in monthly magazines are disappearing.

The US magazine landscape is even more dire, with GameInformer the only significant survivor – and only then because it was bought up by a retailer (Gamestop) who recognised that a well informed customer base could be an asset to its business.

And now even “traditional” world wide web videogames coverage is coming under attack from yet another new way to consume information and entertainment – online video. Since very early on in the life of the world wide web (even before that, on the internet in the shape of BBS and chat channels), videogames have been written about. Screenshots have been shared and readers have begun the relatively rapid migration from magazines to webpages.

Even a smaller site like TheSixthAxis regularly gets more unique readers in a day than there are issues of the UK’s biggest selling games magazine bought in a month. Huge sites like IGN and Gamespot probably do that in an hour.

Video is growing though, and it’s showing all signs of becoming the default way many people like to consume their videogame coverage on the internet. In our recent reader survey, over a quarter of you said you’d like to see more videos on TheSixthAxis. More than ten per cent said you’d like to see more live streaming of games. That’s significant enough that we’re taking note, of course (more on this soon), but when you also consider that either method of serving content would have been almost unthinkable ten years ago and even almost unworkable five years ago, that’s a significant change in the attitude of gamers hungry for information.

YouTube is massive. Tens of millions of subscribers and many billions of views mean that there’s now a very lucrative industry based around promoting and managing the burgeoning talent that has taken to the service to get their creativity in front of consumers. Companies like Machinima are signing contracts with popular channels and professionally producing their videos but for every YouTube “celebrity” that signs up with a promoter or manager, there are dozens of quickly growing channels packed with new talent and ready to become the next big thing.

The latest craze for videogame coverage is live streaming. We’ve done a few experiments with the format and we hope to do a lot more but we’ve barely scratched the surface.

For many companies, live streaming videogames is what they’re banking on. Gamespot and Giant Bomb’s parent company (CBS Interactive) has recently signed a deal with Twitch.tv, a specialist in videogame streaming and eSports coverage. Twitch sees 23 million unique sets of eyes, watching 6 billion minutes of live streaming videogames every month and it predicts that to increase to 10 billion by this summer (thanks, MCV).

There’s been a tendency among those of us who have been riding the crest of the online coverage of videogames to feel almost smug at the continuing demise of more traditional forms of media. As much as I’ve always loved the world of traditional publishing, I have to admit to being guilty of this myself.

We scoff at the lack of pace many printed outlets display – they’re largely out of date before they’ve even left the printing presses. We lament the efforts they must go to and the deals that are done to secure early or exclusive reviews to keep them a step ahead of digital outlets. We balk at their pricing and we mock the homogeneity of their cover stars or features.

And all the while, our wave has crested too.

The way we consume information and entertainment is evolving. It would be wise for us all to recognise that evolution is not something which stops and waits. Evolution is not something with a zenith. This meteoric rise of online written coverage of videogames is not the end result of a process, it’s simply one bubble in the furiously boiling cauldron of how our consumers like to consume.

We’ll ignore that at our peril.

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33 Comments
  1. coruscant
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    I’m a dedicated GameSpot member but I don’t like watching their video reviews, I prefer to read it. Otherwise I find the gameplay videos distracts me from the actual review.

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 17:05.
    • Avenger
      Member
      Since: Oct 2012

      Gametrailers aren’t too bad, clear voice and good range of vocabulary and they spend a decent amount of time actually going through the strengths and weaknesses of a game. They have dealt always in videos until recently and I have found it’s a good way to find out how a game plays out.

      Comment posted on 08/02/2013 at 00:05.
  2. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    I cant think of anything worse than watching a live stream of a video game. Firstly, I want to be playing and secondly, I dont want to spoil the game when I do get it by watching half of it already.

    Stupid idea. You don’t get Mark Kermode live streaming the first half of Django Unchained as he talks about it do you?

    As for for video reports by games websites then 99% of them are shit. The production is shit, the people in front of the camera are shit and the people behind the camera are shit. Apart from TSA vids, obv.

    Production values need to be much, much higher. There is a reason why TV presenters are presenters, they can present. Games journos are not TV presenters and that’s the major problem at the moment.

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 17:09.
    • Peter Chapman
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      TSA vids aren’t normal though – we don’t take ourselves seriously enough to be considered alongside anyone else!

      I think gameplay stream popularity is a bit odd too but it’s massive at the moment, and growing at a ridiculous rate, so people obviously love it.

      Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 17:16.
      • Tuffcub
        On the naughty step.
        Since: Dec 2008

        Yes that why I excluded ours. I meant other site where the think of plonking a scruffy urchin with bad hair in front developer and expect video gold. You need a bit of personality to work on video.

        Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 17:21.
    • djhsecondnature
      Since: Forever

      This. I’ve seen very few video reviews/programs that I though were well made. Such low quality.

      The real problem with video is the amount of additional effort it takes to get right compared to the written word. Not to mention the added expense of equipment.

      Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 17:31.
    • KeRaSh
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      You seem to imply that every game that is livestreamed is one which that person wants to play. What if you have already played that game but want to take a look at it again while someone does a good commentary at the same time? What if it’s a game that you are not interested in enough to spend money on it but enough to care about the content?

      It sometimes can be a fine line but I often catch myself watching lets plays because I don’t have a lot of playtime on my hands and watching a playthrough of a game in 20 minute bites is more viable than trying to actually play the game in 20 minute sessions. If I know I only have around 20 minutes before I have to do something I usually don’t even bother booting up the PS3, let alone the disc, that is inserted. However, loading up Youtube on the tablet only takes a few seconds and them I’m already “in the game” without having to worry about save points or if the missus wants to take over the TV…

      Comment posted on 08/02/2013 at 07:16.
  3. blackredyellow
    Member
    Since: Mar 2009

    If it was done well elsewhere then I wouldn’t still be coming here, every day.

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 17:40.
  4. Adam Garrett
    Community Manager
    Since: Feb 2009

    Interesting points. I watch quite a lot on Twitch.TV, the vast majority is League of Legends related when either there is a tournament on with ridiculous amounts of money on the line or if a pro player is playing and giving tips along the way. The only other time I’ve watched something on Twitch is some of the guys who would play DayZ when I was interested in that game. It was useful (and entertaining) to see what they had found that no one else had, or the crazy stuff they would pull off.

    However, how this mixes with games media I don’t see. Firstly, because the vast majority of games aren’t suited to streaming. Any type of linear game would be boring as hell to watch and full of spoilers. The top games that are watched on there are things like League of Legends, Starcraft, DayZ, World of Warcraft where every single game is completely unique and you can see things that will never happen when you play the game. They are often hugely popular in eSports too.

    Secondly, in my experience, I’ve never seen a reason for wanting to watch a games media outlets streaming for anything other than games press conferences. If I’m going to watch a games media outlet stream then it would be because they’re running or sponsoring a major tournament (IGN Pro League for example). I wouldn’t want to watch them playing a game before it is out (not live, anyway) or just playing a game with commentary. The people presenting would probably annoy me from past experience, and it would be utterly dull. The people/companies being watched at the top of Twitch Tv at the moment are professional gamers and eSports, so unless games media can fit into that I dont know why people would watch them.

    TL;DR – People watch gamers and tournaments streaming. Why would games media have anything entertaining to offer on a livestream?

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 17:59.
    • Adam Garrett
      Community Manager
      Since: Feb 2009

      Oh and just to add, I agree about the video side of things. There’s a lot more video content and I often like that. It’s also easier to share and to pass on as the people I often want to show something to are more inclined to watch a short video on it than read an article.

      Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 18:00.
  5. hol
    Member
    Since: Oct 2009

    You know, I’m old enough to remember a time sans Internet and a time when I looked forward to the latest games magazine. With good websites, like TSA, I don’t need these anymore, I get the info I need direct to my phone as soon as it’s out. I’m really unsure about video reviews, I’d much rather read an opinion as generally the author would’ve thought more about what they’re saying. Some video reviews I’ve seen have been awful with shouty presenters & dodgy footage at best.
    You guys do a great job as is.

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 18:00.
  6. Darth Newdar
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    Personally, I much prefer reading articles to watching them – but that’s probably just me.

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 18:05.
  7. DJ Judas
    Epic
    Since: Aug 2008

    I understand that there has been a massive uptake in people wanting to consume video content on games, but I don’t think it’s as much of an either-or scenario as the comparison between websites and the printed word.

    Recorded video is constant, once recorded it is that way forever, the rate of consumption is constant and its duration, preset. Reading however is done at the pace of the individual and it’s easier to jump through news writing’s chronology in order to extract the key data, unlike a video where the viewer is at the mercy of its producer in terms of content delivery.

    Video content isn’t going to endanger written content any time soon, but it does serve as a wonderful counterpart when executed correctly.

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 18:07.
  8. Moshbag
    Member
    Since: Nov 2011

    “In our recent reader survey, over a quarter of you said you’d like to see more videos on TheSixthAxis.” Surely that means three quarters asked either couldn’t give a monkey’s or actively don’t want to see videos (presumably thinking it’ll take away from other content). I don’t get how you see that as a mandate for change. Same with the even smaller 10% that want streaming.

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 18:30.
    • Peter Chapman
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      No, because the question was “what would you like to see more of?” so the box was only ticked by those who actively want more. If the question had been “which of these types of content do you want to see appear?” then you’d be correct.

      For example, only a few more people said they wanted more competitions, does that mean we shouldn’t run competitions because their increase in frequency is not a priority for most? Of course not.

      Comment posted on 08/02/2013 at 10:13.
      • Moshbag
        Member
        Since: Nov 2011

        There’s no distinction for me. Only a few people said they wanted more competitions, that doesn’t mean you should stop competitions, most are just happy with the current number you run.

        Someone who doesn’t tick the video streaming box in response to “what would you like to see more of?” surely is not bothered by it or actively does not want to see more.

        Unless of course they could only tick one box, I don’t recall the format of the survey. I’m not trying to pedantic but I personally would interpret the results of these questions differently. Of course you are welcome to produce whatever content you like, I come to the site for the pleasant environment it fosters, not the diversity of its content.

        Comment posted on 08/02/2013 at 11:18.
  9. blast71
    Member
    Since: May 2012

    Maybe it’s because i’m getting old & knackered, but i prefer gaming magazines to other forms of gaming media(love tsa tho ;).
    Still gutted PSM3 is no more :(
    Been trying other mags but most are shite. FECK!

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 19:37.
  10. xdarkmagician
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    I think with twitter and facebook even internet gaming news websites are going to start disappearing. I think video game news is heading to an even faster method then logging in to your favorite gaming news website. I get emails every day from publishers, Sony, MS, developers that wrap up whats going on in the industry several hours before any websites report it, I even get emails from gaming news websites telling me about what ness I might have missed. It may be lacking the personal touch, but its faster to read. Plus now games like CoD, BF, have their own news tickers that let me know about maintenance, double XP, and DLC info. I just think as greedy as the industry is sooner or later they’re going to want the money gaming news websites make from advertisements and keep everything in-house. Look at U-Play, you go to a special section where you have a store, news, videos, and sometime whenever they get it working friend messaging. I see a world were every video game publisher has their own social networking service that is added to the games they make thereby sending news straight to the consumer.

    Comment posted on 07/02/2013 at 20:05.
    • Peter Chapman
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      yes, this is a growing trend (and a very worrying one, in my opinion).

      I’ve got a nephew who gets 90% of his gaming news from the Xbox 360 dash. That’s not news, it’s advertising. What you’re getting through those official channels is carefully worded, well timed promotional material. Which is fine for plenty of things (like maintenance or XP events) but it means you never hear anything that the publisher hasn’t approved.

      Allowing the people who are selling you the products to completly control the information about those products is dangerous.

      Comment posted on 08/02/2013 at 10:18.
      • KeRaSh
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        Yes, exactly. I don’t consider sifting through hundreds of tweets, several times a day to find some interesting information effective. It’s the job of news sites to filter out the relevant stuff and pick up a few things that didn’t appear on official channels.
        News site are also a centralized hub for all the information that is spread across the internet. I don’t think people will ditch TSA just to go through thousands of Twitter and Facebook accounts, check dozens of gaming forums and visit official homepages every time they want to find out if there’s some relevant gaming news.
        While people can get announcements from Twitter and Facebook, etc, I wouldn’t consider that more than official news noise. News sites are filters that make things so much easier.

        Comment posted on 08/02/2013 at 10:49.
      • Alex C
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        The PlayStation Blog is similar. They’ve been smart in trying to cover a lot of bases to give the impression that they’re a catch-all for PS news, but that’s not the case at all. They’re all very carefully positioned and worded articles to enhance the brand. That’s fine, as long as the reader understands that.

        I don’t think they should be doing hands on previews, though – the one for The Last Of Us was really weird to read.

        Comment posted on 08/02/2013 at 10:52.
      • xdarkmagician
        Member
        Since: May 2009

        I agree, I’m a firm believer in getting all the facts. Just look at the PSN hack, how the PSblog was updated, or more acutely wasn’t updated. But the convenience of just putting in a game over a google search is very appealing to alot of people. And now if both MS and Sony are fully supporting social media getting news sent to you will become even more convenient. I agree that it wont be the best way to get information, but it’ll create a situation where less people are looking for information.

        Comment posted on 08/02/2013 at 17:18.

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